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Building a better brand-supplier relationship

Part of the problem is rooted in misconception. For instance, some brand holders may think a supply partner doesn’t provide much value beyond a given product or service. Andrew Rice, director of product and brand strategy at Stratum Nutrition®, was quick to counter. “We absolutely want to ensure our customers find success with the products they masterfully create with our ingredients so that our brand partners and their customers both benefit.” Stratum’s value-add comes from internal resources it offers at no extra cost, such as brand, marketing, science and formulation consulting. “This is our way of ensuring they aren’t just getting an ingredient, but something that will help them find product launch success, build a stronger relationship with our company, and above all else, benefit their customers’ health and wellness.”

Shaheen Majeed, president worldwide at Sabinsa, said raw materials sourcing is an additional area brands may misunderstand. “Brand holders often worry that suppliers will fall short of supply, but in fact, good suppliers anticipate and take action to address potential shortfalls well in advance; that knowledge alone is worth its weight in gold,” he stated. “In the world of botanical extracts, if there is too much rain or not enough rain during the growing season, we can predict the outcomes fairly accurately; this can help the brand owners make adjustments. Supply chain risk mitigation is something that both suppliers and brand holders can, and should, work on together.”

Brand holders looking to formulate with USDA Organic ingredients should work closely with trusted suppliers. Saumil Maheshvari, senior vice president of business development, Orgenetics Inc., said a significant lag in organic supply can occur when trying to meet demand. “It often takes years for farms to become Certified Organic, and it also is sometimes not easy cultivating crops as USDA Organic,” he pointed out. Close partnership with an organic supplier allows a “forward mapping of supply/demand … to build out a supply chain of the future, for the future consumers.”

Maheshvari suggested, “This sort of ‘vertical collaboration’ can be the brand owner’s relevant teams reaching out to their specified supplier, and working with them through the entire product development’s stages—from inception/formulation to the marketing and timing of launch, etc. Having clear launch timings and expectations alleviates strains on USDA Organic supply chains (upstream to the farmer even), and it helps the supplier better manage investing in growth. It also secures new organic supply for the brand’s new products/projects.”

Beyond supply chain, Majeed suggested brands ask detailed questions of suppliers regarding testing protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs). “A common misconception is that suppliers only test the first shipment and nothing after—this may be true of some suppliers, but should not be assumed,” he said.

Audits are another area where trust can be built. “Suppliers should expect to be routinely audited,” Majeed noted. “Any supplier that cannot or will not accommodate an audit by a customer should be suspect. It’s a basic GMP (good manufacturing practice) requirement.”

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